Neil Bateman explains why it is important that older people
claim the minimum income guarantee -Ênot only will it increase
pensioners’ incomes but it can lead to an improvement in other
How can I identify older people who are entitled to the minimum
The minimum income guarantee (MIG) is the minimum income level
for older people on a low income. It has been and remains a key
government priority as part of its efforts to address pensioner
Essentially, it consists of a large amount of income support for
people over 60 with parallel rises in housing benefit and council
tax benefit. This means that any older person already on income
support should not need to do anything if they already receive
income support and they see publicity about MIG.
From last month, the capital limit for income support for people
over 60 has been increased from £8,000 to £12,000. The
lower limit, the amount above which tariff income is generated, has
also been raised to £6,000.
Alongside this, the income levels have gone up – £92.15 for
a single person and £140.55 for a couple. This represents a
major increase, especially for younger pensioners, because as well
as these increases, the complex three-band system of allowances for
income support based on age has been levelled up to one.
So, keep a look out for pensioners whose income and capital are
less than the amounts described: according to government figures, a
half-a-million of them are failing to claim.
Local authorities have a direct financial interest in making
sure older people in residential care maximise their income support
entitlement as they can recoup much of the extra income via
residential care charges.
One group that frequently misses out on the MIG are pensioners
who are entitled to the severe disability premium in income support
(an extra £41.55 a week for a single person). These are mostly
pensioners on attendance allowance who live on their own. The
publicity about the improvements in the minimum income guarantee
may pass them by and the severe disability premium is notoriously
difficult to explain to those entitled to it.
Certainly, a high proportion of older people missing out on
income support fall into this group and are disproportionately
likely to be in contact with social work services. And, as from
next April, the Department of Health is proposing that the severe
disability premium will be the only element of income support that
will be chargeable by social services departments for
non-residential charges there is a further incentive to maximise
MIG take up.
As I mentioned earlier, other means-tested benefits have had the
same increases in income levels as income support. There is a lot
of evidence to show that a large number of older owner-occupiers on
low incomes, who are above income support level, miss out on
council tax benefit.
It is not always the easiest benefit to calculate as you need to
know the amount of the person’s annual council tax, but at least
try to keep an eye open for people who qualify.
Part of the reason for non take-up is that the amounts of
council tax benefit payable can be very low when looked at weekly –
a disincentive to negotiating the process of claiming. However,
even at £1.50 a week, over £75 off a council tax bill is
not to be sniffed at.
The process of claiming income support should trigger a council
tax benefit claim, or people can claim directly from the local
authority. To make a claim for income support, the Benefits Agency
minimum income guarantee claimline will register a claim on 0800
028 1111. Alternatively, a letter to the local Benefits Agency
office will trigger a claim.